Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Intuit's new tool helps small businesses determine coronavirus tax credit eligibility

The new estimator tool uses customers' unique information to build personalized questions and estimate their eligibility for different federal COVID-19 relief programs.

Intuit on Wednesday announced it's adding new features to an online tool designed to help small businesses and self-employed individuals wade through the federal government's complex coronavirus relief programs. The new estimator tool on the Intuit Aid Assist site specifically helps customers estimate the tax credits and deferments they may be eligible for from the CARES Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

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Using the same technology behind Intuit's TurboTax software, the new tool helps customers determine their eligibility for tax credits and deferments through a simple UI that asks personalized questions.  

The tool's impact could be significant, Intuit suggested, given there are an estimated 15 million self-employed individuals in the US and 31 million small businesses. 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law in mid-March, funded emergency paid sick leave and emergency family leave, among other things. The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed in late March, aimed to help businesses with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. However, the program drew criticism for funneling money to larger companies while depriving small businesses of emergency funds.

Intuit Aid Assist aims to make the programs funded in those bills more accessible. The new tool can help users determine eligibility specifically for tax credit and tax deferment programs such as the employee retention credit (ERC), the emergency paid sick leave credit, the emergency family and medical leave credit, and the employer Social Security tax deferral.  

Determining ERC eligibility could be particularly important for small business owners that missed out on a PPP loan. Small businesses that did receive PPP loans may also be eligible for deferral of employer social security tax payments. 

Intuit Aid Assist is built on knowledge engineering, a rules-based system that Intuit has invested in since the 1980s. While not as buzzworthy as new data-driven AI capabilities like deep learning, Intuit says knowledge engineering is an enduring technology that's especially relevant during the pandemic.